LAS VEGAS — Courtney Ramey had missed all four of his previous 3-point attempts when the ball wound up back in his hands at the most critical moment.
Ramey shook a defender and then calmly drilled one from the top of the key with 16.7 seconds left to put Arizona in front. The eighth-ranked Wildcats hung on from there, beating No. 2 UCLA 61-59 in the Pac-12 championship game.
“I kept telling myself, the next shot is going in,” Ramey said. “My job was to make a play.”
The Wildcats (28-6) boosted their case for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA (29-5) still hopes to land the No. 1 seed in the West and return to Las Vegas in two weeks for the regional.
It was the second year in a row Arizona beat UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.
Arizona second-year coach Tommy Lloyd can’t lose in Las Vegas. He is 9-0 in the city, 8-0 at T-Mobile Arena and 6-0 in the Pac-12 Tournament.
“It was a knock down, drag out and I had a feeling it was going to be that way,” Lloyd said. “So much respect for the UCLA program. Obviously, they’re going through a lot of injury stuff right now, but they’re resilient and I knew it was going to be like that.”
Ramey’s 3-pointer put the Wildcats ahead 60-58. The clutch shot came after teammate Azuolas Tubelis missed a 3 that was rebounded by Pelle Larsson, who got the ball to Ramey.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell was fouled with 6.8 seconds left, and he made the first free throw but missed the second. Tubelis hit one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds to go, and UCLA’s Dylan Andrews missed a 3 at the buzzer to ensure Arizona’s victory.
“Wide-open shot to win the game,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “Tyger’s beating himself up over a missed free throw, but that had nothing to do with some of our bad fouls and defensive breakdowns. Those are controllables. I’ll take Tyger at the line and put my career on the line with Tyger at the line.”
Tubelis, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, had 19 points and 14 rebounds for second-seeded Arizona. Oumar Ballo scored 13 points and Larsson had 11.
Amari Bailey led top-seeded UCLA with 19 points. Campbell scored 16 and Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bruins knew coming in they wouldn’t have guard Jaylen Clark (lower leg) or Adem Bona (shoulder), and their problems only mounted when two of Bona’s replacements in the post got into foul trouble.
Mac Etienne and Kenneth Nwuba each had four fouls in the second half, forcing Cronin to play at least one of them. Etienne fouled out with 9:35 left and Nwuba with 4:27 remaining, meaning the Bruins had to play with a smaller lineup the rest of the game.
Arizona wasn’t completely healthy, either. Point guard Kerr Kriisa has been playing with a balky shoulder during the tournament.
An Arizona fan was yelling at Cronin’s dad, Hep, after the game, according to UCLA radio broadcaster Josh Lewin. When a reporter told Cronin afterward, he immediately left the postgame news conference. Athletic director Martin Jarmond quickly followed him.
Arizona: The Wildcats entered the game just 10 3-pointers behind their school record set in the 2010-11 season. But long-range shots didn’t fall for them against the Bruins until the end. Arizona went 6 of 20 from beyond the arc.
UCLA: The question is the health of Clark and Bona. Cronin won’t provide any information other than saying before the Pac-12 Tournament that Clark wouldn’t play. UCLA was easily the class of the Pac-12 this season, but not having those players was quite noticeable, especially against Arizona.
Arizona: Likely will be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA: Almost certainly a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Courtney Ramey lifts No. 8 Arizona over No. 2 UCLA for Pac-12 title originally appeared on NBCSports.com